How often should you change your windscreen wipers?
7 minute read
When you think of car maintenance, your car’s windscreen wipers are probably not the first things that spring to mind. But they are actually a really important part of your car and absolutely crucial for driving safely.
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Windscreen wipers do an invaluable job, keeping your windscreen clean, clear and unobstructed so that you have a full field of vision while you’re driving. Many drivers end up neglecting their wipers, assuming that they never need any maintenance or attention - but this could be a mistake.
Why is it so important to check your wipers regularly?
Windscreen wipers wear out just like many other parts of your car. Fail to replace them when they become ineffective and you could increase your risk of having an accident. If you’re caught in a sudden downpour or have dirt, mud or grease on your windscreen and your wipers can’t clear it, this can easily become a very dangerous situation. You could fail to see a pedestrian in front of your vehicle until it’s too late, or react a fraction of a second too slowly to prevent a collision.
Windscreen wipers and car insurance
Not only is it dangerous to have faulty or poorly performing wipers on your car, but it can also affect your car insurance. You could find that your insurer fails to pay out if you have a bump because you’ve neglected basic car maintenance. If faulty wipers obstructed your vision, and this is deemed to have caused or contributed to the accident, you could be left out of pocket.
This is why it’s always important to carry out full and thorough car maintenance checks, as well as checking what’s covered on your car insurance and what isn’t.
When do windscreen wipers need replacing?
Many drivers don’t realise that their windscreen wiper blades should be changed at least once a year.
In many cases, wipers are only designed to last around six months or slightly longer. You may want to pop a note on your calendar to remind you to at least check the condition of your windscreen wipers at least every six months, if not to replace them.
3 signs your windscreen wipers need replacing
You should also replace your windscreen wipers if you notice that they are starting to wear out. You can spot the signs of deterioration easily, but keeping an eye out for these tell-tale signs:
Streaks and smears
If your wipers used to clear rain and moisture easily but are now leaving streaks and smears behind, it’s time to replace the blades. Before you do, just check that there isn’t any debris (leaves, mud or dirt) stuck underneath them. It could just be that they need a good clean. You should also investigate whether it could be a poor quality windscreen washer fluid causing the problem.
Cracks and splits in the rubber
If you’ve noticed streaking, smearing or a drop in performance, take a closer look at the rubber on your windscreen wiper blades. Is it split or cracked in any way? If so, you’ll need to replace them. Remember that a small crack can easily turn into a split, and this could happen when you’re zipping along the motorway at 70mph in heavy rain.
If your wipers are ‘skipping’ across the windscreen rather than making full contact all the way across, it could be a sign that they have warped. This can happen over particularly hot summers, where windscreen wipers aren’t used and the heat of the sun causes the blades to become misshapen.
You may also have noticed that your wiper blades are squeaking as they pass across the windscreen. Don’t panic if you hear this, as it isn’t necessarily a sign that your wipers are worn. It could simply be that they’re too loose or too tight, or that they’re on too fast a setting for the amount of rain falling on the windscreen.
How to remove windscreen wipers
You can get your windscreen wipers replaced by a professional, but it can be quick, easy and cheaper to do it yourself.
The first step is to remove the old blades, before inserting new ones. Many motorists are nervous about this first step, worrying that they may cause damage - especially if the old wiper blades get stuck.
Follow these tips for safe, damage-free wiper blade removal:
- Make sure the car engine is off. This is especially important for cars with automatic rain detection features, where the wipers start automatically. The last thing you want is for the blades to move while you’re trying to change them.
- Gently lift the wiper arm away from the glass. Most wipers are spring-loaded, so you may face some resistance, but the wiper should still come towards you at a 90 degree angle
- Slide out the old wiper blade, carefully holding the wiper arm in place if it’s not already locked - you don’t want to risk the bladeless wiper damaging your windscreen if it should fall.
How to fit windscreen wipers
Before you attempt the steps above and remove your old wiper blades, it’s a good idea to purchase your new wiper blades and have them ready to fit. Refer to your car’s user manual for information on the type of blades to buy and instructions on fitting on your particular vehicle. Just like with other car parts and supplies, it’s always recommended to spend a little more on a high quality product.
With your new wiper blades to hand, it’s time for installation. Remove your old blades following the steps above and while holding the wiper arm in position, slide the new wiper blade into place. You should hear a click where the blade hits the locking button, although some vehicles may require you to clip a locking tab into place yourself.
Once you’re sure the new blade is in securely, you can place the wiper arm gently back onto the windscreen.
Maintaining your windscreen wipers
It’s always worth giving your new windscreen wipers a test before hitting the road, just to make sure they’re fitted correctly and they work smoothly.
To ensure your new wiper blades last as long as possible, try to keep your windscreen clear of debris and your washer fluid topped up. Park in the shade to prevent your wipers warping in very sunny weather and in cold weather, make sure to manually scrape away ice on the windscreen before switching your wipers on.
For more advice on car maintenance, plus other expert driving tips, don't forget to check out the rest of our Useful Article section.